Read? Who Has Time to Read??

A Reading Plan the REALLY WORKS!

As I travel and speak to audiences around the world I always ask them about their personal development plan and how they are investing in themselves so they will be equipped to invest in others. Most people tell me they know they should be doing that, but they don’t have time. I was guilty of saying the same thing until I became intentional about investing a few minutes EVERY DAY in a reading plan that would help me be better in the areas of my interests. It changed my life!

When someone asks how they can get started reading, here is the plan I suggest:

A Reading Plan that Works

First, decide on the area(s) of your interest and choose a book. (You can also find podcasts, blogs, TED Talks, YouTube, etc. But keeping a book going will never let you down). I chose leadership, sales, coaching, personal development and team building because those are the areas where I speak the most. You can do a search for title on Amazon or ask an expert in your area of interest for a recommendation.

Second, set an Irreducible Minimum (the minimum you will do in a certain area every day that cannot be reduced). For your reading habit I suggest 2-pages a day. How often? EVERY DAY! Does that mean weekends and holidays? Ah yeah! Every day! Warning: Do not set high goals for reading, you will get behind, get frustrated and quit. A small, ridiculously small, goal that can be accomplished EVERY DAY will encourage you to keep going!

Third, decide how you will do your reading and make the necessary arrangements. I use a multifaceted approach:

  • Buy a physical book – I love real books and I have an amazing library, however, this is problematic for me because of my travel. Books get heavy and I usually want to have more than one with me. ((I like because my Prime membership gets it to me fast and free, but there are other retailers)
  • Buy a Kindle book (or get the Kindle app for your device) – eBooks are the rage. Prices are less than physical books, you can access them immediately, you can read them on a variety of devices, and they are easy to highlight and take notes. (I actually bought a physical Kindle because when I read on my iPad with the Kindle app I was distracted by all the other things my iPad can do, like email and web-surfing. The cool thing is that no matter which device I use, when I pick up the other one I am synced to my furthest read position.)
  • Buy an Audio book – I am a BIG fan of this. I consume the majority of my books via audio. This way I can “read” while I drive, fly or walk. I can listen to books while I cut my grass or paint that room my wife would like me to paint. I use You can get a free book at Audible if you want to try it. I buy a subscription that gives me a number of credits to download books to my phone when I am ready for a new one. One credit = one book.)

Fourth, execute! Read your two pages a day, every day. If you only read the two pages, it’s a win, you are done for the day. However, if you read more than two pages then it is bonus reading and it is a bigger win for you. This can be life changing, if you do it.

A Note About eBooks and Audio Books

Kindle and Audible are both owned by Amazon. When you buy the audio version you can also buy the Kindle version and the two will stay synced. Let’s say you listen in the car on the way home from work. Then after dinner you grab your Kindle or Kindle app and open the book, the device will ask you if you want to move forward to where you were listening. Amazon calls this WhisperSync.

Also, about highlighting and note taking; When using the Kindle or Kindle app you can highlight a passage (like with a yellow highlighter) with your finger. You may also type in a note of your own any time you like. When you do this, Amazon captures that highlight or note in the cloud and saves it to your Personal Kindle Highlights Page. Simply go to, click on Account & Lists, then click on Your Content & Devices. Every book you read should have a line item there that contains ALL your highlights and notes. In the past I would yellow highlight in a physical book and then have to go back and capture those highlights if I ever hoped to use them again. Now I underline with my finger, go to Amazon and find my highlights, copy them and paste them into Evernote (the free filing cabinet app) so now they become searchable. I never have an excuse now on not being able to find a note from a book I once read.

I usually start with an audio book. If it is spectacular and I know I need to dig deeper I will order the Kindle version. If after completing the audio and Kindle versions I still want the book for my library I might go on Amazon and by the hard copy. When the Amazon box shows up in the mailbox I can hear my wife asking me, “How many times did you buy that book??” Oops!

What do you do to keep your reading habit alive? (Comment below)

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Mind Your Face, Be a Difference Maker

The Smile Test

Maybe it’s because I am out and about a lot, but it seems that people are angry. Each week I visit a new airport or country only to find the same stern and serious faces on the people I encounter. This caused me to do a face-check on myself…guess what, I too was defaulting to a stern, serious, angry looking presentation.

The Choice

So, I decided to do a little test. I decided that every time I am walking in a public place (airport, restaurant, hotel lobby, city street) no matter where in the world I am, I am going to smile. I am going to smile “at people” and I am going to smile in general as I move from place to place. By the way, it is a decision, a choice as to how you are going to present yourself. Default position – frown, stern, serious. Choice position – smiling, grinning, happy.

The Findings

The first thing I learned was be careful about smiling too much in airports. I think the TSA was following me to see if I was up to something. I’m kidding, but smiling in airports is so unusual that I half expected that to be true.

As I began to “mind my face”, I noticed an unusual response from others.

  • Some folks smiled back, and generally with a slight nod that said, “greetings”.
  • Some folks had a grin and a visible loosening of their shoulders that said, “good for you”.
  • Some folks just had a loosening of their own facial expression that said, “nice”.
  • Some folks kept scowling that said, “what are you smiling about…I’ll knock that smile….” (you get the point)

The Lesson

Here is what I learned:

  1. It’s just as easy to smile at folks as it is to scowl.
  2. Everyone is dealing with something and my smile, as small and insignificant as it is in their life, provides a moment of kindness.
  3. People in general don’t know how angry they look, I know I didn’t.
  4. You will stand out in a crowd if you smile versus scowl.
  5. It will make you feel better, more grateful, more thankful, less stressed
  6. It will make others feel noticed.

Just a final word about #6. I believe that everything happens for a reason. From time to time, a well placed smile can lead to a conversation. These conversations are usually short and very surface level conversations. After one of these short interactions on an airplane the guy that I smiled at and spoke to turned back to me as he was walking away and said, “thank you for making me feel seen”. That troubled me for the rest of that day and few more after it. What an odd thing to say. Then it hit me, a lot of people go through life feeling invisible to others; like they don’t matter and no one cares. A smile was all I did to make that man feel seen. To me it was a smile in passing. To him it was a lifeline that said, “I matter”.

Smile more, bark less as the bumper sticker says, well kind of, at least that’s what it should say. You never know what your smile will say to someone you pass.

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Are You a Flash, or Will You Last?

I was reading Ryan Holiday’s great book, Ego is the Enemy, and saw this phrase about flash or last. It occurred to me that so much of thinking about success today is about what BIG thing I can do to get the win. That’s the flash.

As an aside, I highly recommend the book, Ego is the Enemy. I told a friend he should get it (only $1.99 right now on Kindle) and he said, “What are you trying to tell me??” The way Ryan presents the topic makes it for everyone…whether you think ego is a problem or not. Ego can keep you from leading with purpose if you are not careful.

What Leads to Lasting Success?

I have been guilty of swinging for the fences hoping to get the home run (big win), but for every home run there were many, many strikeouts (failures, setbacks, etc.). What I have learned is that if I focus on the small, seemingly insignificant daily tasks that lead to where I want to go, I will find more sustainable success. That’s what lasts.

I notice in my coaching work that many people struggle with doing what is required today in order to be prepared for tomorrow. They tend to wait until the last minute to do the things and then swing for the fences. John Maxwell, in his book Today Matters, speaks of a question you should be asking yourself, are you preparing or repairing? Are the things you are doing today “preparing” you for what is next, or are you “repairing” from what you should have done yesterday but didn’t?

Flashing or Lasting

If you want to last for the long run and be more than a flash, then consider these ideas:

  • People who flash, do not have a clear view of what they want to accomplish.
  • People who last, know what they are aiming for and do the important things today that lead to that outcome.
  • People who flash, don’t know the importance of today.
  • People who last, know that today matters. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not promised.
  • People who flash, wait until the opportunity appears to begin preparing.
  • People who last, prepare knowing that one day their opportunity will appear.
  • People who flash, let the day run them, always making excuses for why they didn’t do what they needed to do.
  • People who last, run the day, scheduling their most important tasks early.
  • People who flash, react to the circumstances and adjust their path based on feelings.
  • People who last, are proactive and live each day intentionally.

Be intentional, be clear about where you are going, determine daily steps to get there and then EXECUTE those daily steps EVERY DAY.

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I Need to Have My Backside Kicked!

ID-10041058One of my coaching clients greeted me with a text message recently that read simply, “I need to have my butt kicked!” When I responded that all of us feel that way from time to time he shot back, “Seriously, I need kick in the butt ideas, GO!”

Idea #1

I knew he wasn’t going to like this, but here we go, Idea #1:

My Return text: “It’s no one’s job to kick your backside but you! Waiting for someone else to motivate you to do the things you know you should do is called, “making excuses”.

I quickly continued my text message so as not to lose a client, “I recognize this because it defined my life for over 20 years. Good intentions, no motivation or at least no sustained motivation, stop doing the things I know I should do, and wait for someone to kick me to get me started again.”

I waited nervously for his reply….then it came…”Thank you, I needed that! You are right, I am looking for some outside force when I know what I really need is to lead myself.”


Idea #2

Since I had opened the gate I decided to pile on idea number two.

Idea #2: “Decide what you want your outcome to be, set small goals to get there, dream big, start small, act now, do it daily.”

Facing the Truth

My client was just verbalizing the things we ALL DEAL WITH. I have never met a person who was trying to accomplish something that didn’t have good intentions. I’m going to do this…I going to do that…but they don’t get around to doing them.

The truth is that we often develop our good intentions and then develop BIG plans to execute on those intentions. The problem is that BIG plans can be difficult to execute over time. What I find that works is to break your BIG plan into small parts and execute on small, daily (big word) things, consistently (bigger word), over time. Oh yeah, and track what matters!

What Gets in the Way

My client confessed that he let emotion get in the way of making good choices. I find this to be a common challenge. How I “feel” governs how I “choose”. The answer to this is to know your “why”. Why do you want what you want? For example, I have struggled for years trying to eat right and exercise to get in shape. My “Why” was because I wanted to look fit. While that sounds nice, it does not always hold up under the emotion generated by my daily challenges.  A stronger “Why? Is that I want to dance with my granddaughter Grayson at her wedding. Now, I can look at an Oreo and tell it to get lost!

Lead Yourself

Know what you want to accomplish and know why you want to accomplish it and you will be able to fend off most of the challenges you face.  Small steps done daily lead to compounding positive results. Avoid the complacency that success breeds by focusing on what you want most instead of what you want now.

Photo Credit – – Photo by Ambro